" I believe that courage informs the doctoral scholar’s--- (your) development, responsibilities and responses to society’s needs..."

By Patricia Donohue-Porter, Associate Professor and Director of Ph.D. Nursing program, Adelphi University

» Watch a video of the speech

Good afternoon distinguished members of the Adelphi community assembled on stage; members of our faculty, administration and staff gathered in this lovely hall; families; friends; and honored graduates. As you entered this space in flowing robes, holding long hoods, in the tradition of academic processions -you may have been concentrating on just smoothly arriving at your seat- please take joy now in the moment and embrace the warmth, pride and well-wishes that surround you on this day as your receive your academic honor.

My remarks will explore your new and future responsibilities as doctorally prepared scholars and illustrate how your preparation and actions are influenced by courage.

A few years ago the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate prepared a thoughtful analysis of the actions of doctoral graduates. It identified stewardship as the distinguishing process, across all disciplines, that doctoral scholars perform.

Stewards look to the past –to understand the fundamental ideas of the discipline.

They look to the future—taking risks and moving the discipline forward.

They generate knowledege by: conducting research that makes a unique contribution.

They conserve knowledge by: interpreting how the discipline fits into the larger intellectual landscape.

They transform knowledge by: communicating ideas effectively, crossing traditional boundaries.

The Carnegie Report emphasizes that once you have identified yourself as a steward you begin to adopt a sense of purpose that is larger than yourself.

To me, that means that you become increasingly other-centered, and more open to responding to the needs of today’s world.

Your wisdom and your competence are essential to scholarship but other critical factors are involved in the making of a scholar.

Pelikan, a pre-eminent historian of scholarship, describes the moral responsibility of a scholar as going beyond competence, to those qualities of mind and spirit that form character and shape integrity.

One of these other qualities of mind and spirit is courage.

There is a long line of philosophical thinking on courage: from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to contemporary philosophers.

I would like to offer a few examples of how courage has been defined.

You can view it on a continuum: courage as heroic action to courage as a quiet state of determination and steadfastness.

Both the French and German origins of the word courage relate to the heart, the personal center.

Paul Tillich describes courage as essential to one’s very being.

Others have described it as the capacity to move ahead despite despair and still others see it as a constant effort to do the right thing. (May)

Courage is closely related to wisdom and strength of mind, according to Aquinas. John F. Kennedy links it with self-respect in remaining true to one’s most enduring values. and, with great hope for the future, the Plato scholar, Linda Rabieh, tells us that the balanced examination of courage can help us to attain human dignity.

I believe that courage informs the doctoral scholar’s— (your) development, responsibilities and responses to society’s needs so for a moment I would like you to:

Think about your beginning days as a doctoral student, your current outstanding research contributions and the challenges you will face as you look to the future.

Your development as a scholar required courage
You needed persistence, self-reflection and acceptance of ambiguity to grow as a scholar. The rigor of your doctoral programs required learning about a broad array of theoretical perspectives and resulted in a release of creativity.
Creativity is linked to courage. Those who stretch beyond limits finding new meaning in existence have been called models of creative courage. (May)

Your new responsibilities as a doctoral scholar require courage
Your responsibilities may include direct patient and client care in multiple arenas of mental health, social disparities, physical vulnerabilities and health restoration. Patients will need your compassion as well as your wisdom. Compassion is linked to courage and courage has been described as a bridge to alleviating patient’s suffering through caregivers’ witnessing. (Arman)

Your academic studies and your independent research have guided
you to respect and care about the vulnerability of others.

Your charges for the future require courage and you are prepared.
Your leadership responsibility will often be carried out within a framework of courageous action. The responsibility is immense-requiring what Martha Nussbaum has described as both the skill and courage needed to raise a dissenting voice.

You have learned to develop that voice.

Your continued scholarship will take place in the complex environments of the future. The contemporary philosopher Alasdair Macintyre reminds us that courage is essential to any practice profession holding standards of excellence.

You have learned the skills of leadership at Adelphi that allow you to strive for excellence.

Each one of our doctoral programs emphasizes a deep appreciation for ethics and the humanities, that can help in informing your professional actions that focus on what it means to be human and that can help you in consistently resisting dehumanization in society-in whatever form–discrimination, over-reliance on technology, isolation, or disparities in access to health services. It takes courage to stand against any dehumanizing experience, but you are Adelphi University doctoral scholars and you have considerable intellectual resources and the will to do so.

Your unique Adelphi University doctoral degree is being conferred from an enriched educational environment and has been guided by many important mentors in your academic life. This environment has also been deeply influenced by the leadership of President Scott and I would like to conclude my remarks, as he concludes his presidency, by paying tribute to him. He is an example to us all through his contributions to the field of higher education: demonstrating how an engaged university helps to shape and reflect the values of society.

You are now beginning your life-long engagement within a community of scholars. I believe you will find great joy in the process!

I offer you my most sincere congratulations!


For further information, please contact:

Todd Wilson
Strategic Communications Director 
p – 516.237.8634
e –

Phone Number
More Info
Levermore Hall, 205
Search Menu